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August 31, 2009

Dunbar's comeback

Today marked a new beginning for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School as it reopened its doors after a two-year renovation. I can't claim to have been to every school in the city, but it is at least as nice as any I have been through. The hallways are bright, curved in places and wide. The burgundy and yellow colors of the school are carried throughout in the tiles and walls. The school has a feel that what happens here matters.

It is thoroughly air-conditioned and it doesn't seem to be freezing in some places and warm in others. Students can drink the water because of a new filtration system.

The old gym is still there and it retains the feel of a gym that has been well used and loved.

We can all point to lots of shabby schools that have produced high student achievement, but it was interesting to speak with a school advocate at the ribbon cutting today who noted that where the system has renovated schools, achievement has since risen. She pointed to Digital Harbor and Abbottston Elementary. Dunbar has already made its comeback from a low in the 1990s, but it will be interesting to see if students are inspired by their environment. Will the clean new classrooms with smart boards, new computers and new science labs make a difference in what students aspire to and what they achieve?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 7:10 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Baltimore City


Yes! Of course it makes a difference. These kids aren't stupid. You don't have to actually say, "Nobody cares about you" for them to know that nobody cares about them.

All are equal but some are more equal than others.

The built environment has a huge impact on children's lives so it would be refreshing for North Avenue folks to realize that school buildings are just as important as curriculum and test scores. The facilities department is continually gutted, restaffed and forced to run from broken down boiler calls to leaky roof crisis in every building. We need serious financial investment in building planning and renovation. Architecture of our schools can be an integral part of improving the education of our children. Buildings can be a teaching tool.

I am thrilled for the Dunbar students. Of course, it would be nice if all schools could undergo renovations like this. The trick will be to keep the money in the budgets to maintain all of these wonderful facilities. But, in the meantime, go DUNBAR!!

Inside Ed Post @ Dunbar's comeback

Q&A: Any one knows what is the explanation for not including the renovation of the schools athletic stadium too?
Location at Harford Rd and Madison St is a poorly maintained and obsolete facility.

It is a shame some of the students don't appreciate it. Today, the bathrooms on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors were all stopped up w/ paper and a sledgehammer. The new police officer hired to roam the halls had 3 reports to fill out by noon. Also, tools from one of the company trucks that helped rebuild the school were stolen in broad daylight. All of thsi on day two. I guess the school will ask for more $ to fix everything.

I am constantly seeing evidence of disrespect from children within the system, and AAA doesn't seem to want to deal with it. Rather, this from him last week

"One note of concern, based on my visits this morning: I do not want to see a single child sitting at a desk with graffiti on that desk, or in a classroom with graffiti in that classroom, or walking in a hall with graffiti in that hall. That is not just an expectation for the first day, but for every day."
How do we deal with that? Or is he just challenging our apathy??

To set the record straight the school system responded to a comment posted here earlier today about students behaving badly and clogging toilets at Dunbar.
The principal, Stephen Colbert, says the comment was inaccurate. A toilet was clogged because someone put a paper towel rather than toilet paper into it, but no one believed the act was malicious No sledgehammer was found on school property. The theft of tools from an unlocked truck happened on Central Avenue and is not believed to have involved students. And finally, he said, students behaved well in the first two days. No major incidents were reported by school police.

We all know they monitor these blogs, guess the team is calling Liz....... We have the best PR team around, to bad it's all smoke and mirrors.

@Serious -
So you're upset that someone from North Ave. is reading this blog? I'm kind of happy that anyone cares and listens to complaints and suggestions that are posted here. I've got no idea about anything that happened at Dunbar, but if M Lentz's comments were untrue I appreciate a fact check. There are tons of people that have no problems bad mouthing City Schools, teachers and/or kids with little or no factual basis to their statements. I don't have a problem with North Ave correcting the record, as long as they are telling the truth about the situation. I would hope that Liz checked the facts with someone from the school before posting the statement here.

meanwhile, next door at dunbar middle there is an entire school jammed into 1 and 3/4 floors of the old Dunbar High withe the national academy foundation taking all the rest of the space. While the NAF part of the building (the other 2 and 1/4 floors) received a complete makeover( paint, new ceilings, air-conditioning, new bathrooms and floors, dunbar's bathrooms still have no soap, the water is brown, there are bullet holes in windows, doors that don't lock, people working out of closets because there is no office space, and others being moved to a bug infested "annex" down the street because there isn't even room for guidance, special ed, support teachers, or counselors.

children are smart. they see they inequity that is happening inside their school building. what do you say to an 11 or 12 year old kid when they ask, "why did the high school kids get new this or new that and we have the same old falling apart stuff?" it's even worse when all they have to do is go down a flight of stairas and everything is new or becoming repaired.

ringo starr said it best - "when you're poor no one gave me anything. I had to scrap for every drumstick i could find. Now that i'm rich people send me things i really don't need every day."

Really now, Liz. You don't actually think you are going to "set the record straight" by talking to high-ranking BCPSS officials, do you? They only tell you what they want you to hear.

Hey "Is there a worm in this apple"

So even if folks go around spread rumor and innuendo, that doesn't matter to you because you have it all figured out (i.e.. they are just telling people what they want to hear).

Just maybe folks don't have their facts straight and it's easier to spread lies then dig up the facts. If Liz followed up on the above post and it turned out to be untrue (and it did), you still think it’s wrong for her to investigate and report facts?

Stop looking for the negative and find a way to be a part of the solution. It’s so easy to point fingers but far harder to address real problems with real solutions. You sound jaded.

@middle school teacher- did you ever check your facts about the national academy foundation? they have even more people in the annex (including a class!!!!) because there is no room. the air conditioners were bought by the adults in the building; put up or shut up with the inequity. the only inequity is that not all schools have teachers concerned enough about their students to help paint, set up rooms and buy air conditioners and supplies. just an observation

@In the Know-I dont know what happened, and quite frankly, dont feel the need to dwell into it. I agree with you, if the facts said it didnt happen, then why do we dwell? That has been the problem with BCPSS for the last 15 years that I have been around. If you pick and pick, you can ALWAYS find something wrong, no matter where you are. Lets develop solutions to the problems. I dont think anyone should be address an issue/ problem if they do not have a solution.

to middle school forgot to mention one thing! (imagine that). The old school building behind the middle school that is being COMPLETELY RENOVATED for the middle school for next year. If the options were to tough it out for one year and get a new building or move now and get nothing, what do you think would be better? Instant gratification is an issue with our students. I guess we know where they get it from! Long-range goals and planning is what makes a school work. And

@concerned teacher

there have been no rennovations started at the school in question. When we ask about it we are told that the hold-up is stimulus funding. if you follow the news you know that in many states promised stimulus funds are being redirected to other projects, and away from school construction. about "toughing it for one year," we have been waiting for windows, doors, and heat for 11 years and still have'nt got anything. yeah, i guess that's instant gratification, tough it out for what? pardon me, but i'll believe the hype about fixing up that old school when i see it start. And the money that is slated for repairs of that old school will be split between the new high school and the middle school. Who do you think will come out ahead in that money grab?

@concerned parent

your "just an observation" is "just flat out wrong." alonso rushed workers in to paint and put in the air conditioners. these were not teachers - i know, i was there .
we have fought to put air conditioning in part of our school, but have been told it was a hazard to have them hanging over the sidewalk. guess what, now it's ok to have them on the Caroline street side of the building.And guess who has those rooms now that we were able to finally air-condition including our library and our only computer lab. not us.I worked 2 straight weeks this summer without pay to help our part of the school look as attractive as possible. the majority of the rest of the staff did so as well because we did not want to lose the progress we had made last year both academically and in the school culture.on the sunday before classes opened we had half of our staff here working on their rooms and the hallways. some until 7-8 at night. and we work with whatever kid comes in our door. we don't get to pick them. oh, and they have more people in the annex because they took 75 percent of the space available. we still have people working off of carts or in the hallways. and i resent your unfounded accusation that we don't care about our kids. walk through the building at 5 or 6 in the evening and see who is still working.
we didn't just paint the walls and put in air conditioners, we had an art program that allowed our students to design and implement murals throughout the first floor. we had after school programs( another casualty of the two school merger because of loss of community school status)
and yes, i'm sure they are cramped in their part of the building, but you have to remember that they are not in charge of us yet - not til next year. we just don't think it's fair that the visiting team is making up all the rules.

@middle school teacher-do you really have all the facts? at one point you say they have everything, then you say "we didnt just paint the walls and put it air conditioners." so is it just paint on the wall and airconditioners, or is everything new? sounds like the story has changed. i dont know all of the facts. but i do know this. i can in several times asking to help, and i saw one of the administrators moving stuff, painting, sawing, installing air conditioning, etc. as well several teachers. they were running frantically trying to get the building ready. the other question is, who was fighting to get the building fixed? maybe you need parents like we have to step up and fight for what is right. we would not allow our children to be in a school where everything is messed up. and i have been in the school. the only bathrooms that have had any work done are downstairs and i believe that is outside the cafeteria? isnt that used by both schools? just like what was started on the blog with Dunbar High, please bring ALL the FACTS to the table, not just what you think is going on.

@concerned parent

NAF is a choice school. Dunbar middle is a zoned middle school. when you say "maybe we need more parents to step up and fight for what is right" i agree completely!! one of the major issues each year is the involvement level of parents. i think , sometimes, we just assume that parents will be there to advocate for their children. Sadly, that's not always the case. but you can't compare the students or even the parents of the two schools. parents choose to send their students to NAF and there is entrance criteria, even if that is just an interview, minimum grades. Dunbar is a zoned school who has to accept any student that comes our way. with charters not accepting behaviorially challenged or special needs children, our sped enrollment has inflated to one third of our total student population. i will admit that the parents of the NAF students are more active in advocating for their children, but why is that? Education level, socio-economic status, etc.. i don't know. do we need to do more to attract the parents to the school? maybe. but should we have to? or is it a parents job to advocate for their child, and part of that is assisting the school their child attends.

when i said, " we just didn't paint or put in air-conditioning," i was making the point that we haven't just been sitting by watching the school building crumble. we did what we were allowed to do to improve the facilities for our children. but it is important to know, that many things we have sought to do over the years (like put in air-conditioner units, fix doors and holes in walls, etc.) have been made off limits. it's almost like it wasn't important enough then to get these things fixed, but all of a sudden it is. that's frustrating (though i really am glad some things are finally getting fixed for somebody.)
concerned parent, i really think you have misinterpreted my frustration. it is NOT with NAF - they are doing what they need to survive and prosper in a less than ideal situation. my frustration is with the politics involved in this whole merger. specifically, with the realization that many promises have not been kept by the system during this process. i apoigize if i made you feel like your children did not deserve everything they need to be sucessful. all our children are worthy of the best schools

i will not, however, "put up or shut up" when it comes to inequity of funding, staffing, advocacy, or facilities. because our parents aren't as active as yours in advocating for their children, it is all the more important that someone else calls to question why some things get done and other things are repeatedly ignored.

@middle school teacher -
I'm about tired of this continuing "charter schools don't take SPED students" misinformation. I won't talk for all charter schools or all zoned schools, but I've got a child with significant disabilities and the only schools that we've found that will take, include and educate my child were a non-public placement and a charter school. Our zoned school and several other "special" schools might have taken my kid, but only to be stuck in some sub-par isolated setting with little education and no respect. There are many children at this charter school with IEPs (both behavioral and special needs). Let's quit the rumors and innuendos.

the fact is that charter schools are educating a much smaller percentage of students with special needs in baltimore city. this is true not just in maryland but nationwide. do a google search and you will see many studies that show that charters aren't educating their fair share. in fact, some schools in the city did not have any code c or (self-contained) children until this year. for this reason , some high schools now have life skills programs for the first time. i know a parent who tried to enroll their child at a charter and was told that they were currently understaffed at special ed and that a different zoned school may be a better fit for their child. another parent of a child with multiple disabilities is told that they only do inclusion. not every parent can navigate through this misinformation

The misinformation is coming from a school system that dictates isolation (i.e. self-contained) classrooms for special needs kids. A school that says we don't have a isolated room for your child (typically in the basement next to the boiler room), but wants to find a way to include him/her into a regular class (by providing support, an aide, pull-out services...whatever is needed) is way more desirable IMHO. Any parent that is hoping to have their child included into society at some point needs to start by having them included in school. When was the last time you looked at a self-contained classroom? If it was your child would you want them there?

Again, I am not saying all charter schools value inclusion, but saying that any school that doesn't provide Level C isn't serving SPED kids is not true.

Sounds like they did a great job at fixing the school up.

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